MUSIC preview


Gretchen Peters Glasgow: King Tut’s, Mon 17 Mar.

Chances are that, unless you are one of those people who eagerly peruse the writer credits on your CD sleeves, the name of Gretchen Peters may not mean all that much. That’s a rapidly changing scenario, however, as she steps out from the relative obscurity of even a major songwriter with the release of her debut album, The Secret Of Life, and now her first UK tour.

Her version of Steve Earle's 'I Ain‘t Never Satisfied‘ is also included on the just-released compilation Women In Country, which The Hit Label expect to be a big seller. It lines her up alongside the likes of Nanci Griffith, Reba McIntire, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Dolly Parton, and if she has a way to go before she hits that commercial league as a performer, her songs have already been there.

Which songs? Well, Martina McBride picked up a handful of awards for the taboo-breaking ‘lndependence Day' (a huge country hit about a wife taking the ultimate revenge on her violent husband, seen from the viewpoint of their small child), Trisha Yearwood scored big with the evocative ‘On A Bus To

St Cloud‘, and Patsy Loveless did likewise with the impassioned 'You Don't Even Know Who I Am'.

And it‘s not just women singers either - while Suzy Bogguss, Shania Twain, Pam Tillis and Bonnie Raitt have all cut her songs, she can also number George Jones, George Strait and Randy Travis among her satisfied customers. The release of her own album suggests a classic case of a songwriter getting the itch to see her own name up there on the marquee, but she sees it


‘I got into music because it got into me, is the truth of it, and I never saw singing and songwriting as separate

Gretchen Peters: stepping into the limelight

the first place.‘

things until I moved from Colorado to Nashville, where I discovered all this compartmentalisation of writers and artists. The musicians I really liked did both and it was hearing people like Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett that made me think I could fit into Nashville in

Country fans in the mood for a raunchier approach should make a note that Peters's gig is preceded at King Tut's by another visit from retro-honky tonkers BBS-49

(Fri 14). Their proximity is a reminder that good modern

country comes in different guises. (Kenny Mathieson) I See jazz listings for details.


Mike Heron

Glasgow: Piping Centre, Sun 16 Mar; Edinburgh: Bongo Club, Sat 15.

What band through the 605 and 705 sold more albums than everyone but the Beatles, The Stones, The Who and Led Zeppelin? Incredibly, it was the Incredible String Band, the original raggle taggle music tribe formed in Scotland round the Edinburgh duo of Robin Williamson and Mike Heron. It’s been decades since the group last

40 TIIEUST 7-20 Mar 1997


Mike Heron: prolific songwriter

performed, but as their current quarterly fanzine eponymously asserts ‘Be Glad For The Song Has No Ending'. Like Trekkies, they even have String Band conventions, with the guests of honour, sadly, on stage separately. ’I played at one last year; Robin played the next day. We're always being asked to re-form, and I guess it might happen before long. We'd always resisted the idea, but I was talking to Robin lately and the subject came up, and it looks like we're going to do it sometime - a reunion could be good fun,‘ says Heron.

Heron's live shows tend to have a smattering of the old ISB songs. ’There are always String Band fans, so they would always be requested anyway, things like "Painting Box" or “Log Cabin Home In The Sky", and later ones like "Red Hair”, which my band loves, so we spread them through the performance, but most of the songs are my own, and written much more recently.’

He's a prolific songwriter and spends his days in a Borders cottage writing songs which are then taken up by a wide spectrum of recording stars. 'I've a song at the moment on the Best Of Manfred Mann album. They‘re huge in Europe, especially Germany. Here they‘re remembered from rather sad University gigs, that sort of thing, but on the Continent they sell monstrous amounts.’

Heron's love of live performance returns him regularly to the road. This imminent outing sees him in a simple trio. ‘It's the same band from my last album (Where The Mystics Swim) but without the bass. I like arranging to suit the song, so we do quite a lot with not very much. It‘s quite gentle really, just two acoustic guitars, and a load of percussion.’ (Norman Chalmers)


Meadows Chamber Orchestra Edinburgh: Queen's Hall, Sat 8 Mar.

Taking on the role of conductor and composer, Edinburgh-born Kenneth Dempster will make his debut appearance with Meadows Chamber Orchestra this month. A voice which deserves to be heard more, Dempster's is an interesting one, both politically and artistically astute. Now based in Edinburgh, partly as Lecturer in Composition at Napier University, he has received a wide variety of commissions and is currently working on an opera. It is his Hymn To Lenin, written for Edinburgh University Chamber Orchestra for the 1992 Festival of British Youth Orchestras, which will give audiences an insight into his work on this occasion. ’It's based on Hugh MacDiarmid’s Three Hymns To Lenin,’ he explains, ‘particularly the third hymn which calls on the spirit of Lenin to light up the city of Glasgow to compel the peOple to move for change. The poem describes the dire circumstances of people living in the 505. That is the basic genesis of the work.’

Just as the poem calls on the Spirit of Lenin to bring people to change their circumstances, Dempster tries to evoke an appeal for change through his music. Although the third hymn is especially to the fore, the second is also important. ‘In it, MacDiarmid is contrasting poetry and politics, saying what a weak thing poetry is compared to politics,’ explains Dempster. 'But as the poem progresses he comes down in favour of poetry more and more and says how difficult any act of creation really is. He wishes though, like artists generally, that his poetry could have more of an impact on people‘s lives in the way that politics have.’

Uniting people is another universal theme of the piece. ‘I focus on two aspects of this,‘ says Dempster. ‘One is through the idea of the hymn uniting peOple in voice and the other is through a march. These are the keys to the music from start to finish, and there's one chorale melody which I use throughout the work.’

Now commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Hymn to Lenin is, he says, 'harmonic chaos then order, chaos then order and so on. In a sense it’s a study on cycles of change itself and works it way through various little revolutions.‘ (Carol Main)

Kenneth Dempster: ringing the changes